Jason Heyward delivers home run, 4 RBI, ‘huge’ fielding play

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Jason Heyward makes a diving catch in the third, then leaps to his feet and throws to first for a double play in Saturday’s third.

CINCINNATI — The kind of impact the Cubs envisioned when they signed outfielder Jason Heyward to that team-record contract before last season was on full display during their 12-8 victory Saturday against the Reds.

Already off to a good start at the plate in a bounce-back season, Heyward slugged a three-run home run to right in the sixth inning, added a run-scoring single in the ninth and also walked.

The homer was his second in as many games (his first two of the season). He didn’t hit any last April and didn’t hit his second of last season until June 2.

‘‘Less arms, more hands,’’ manager Joe Maddon said, summing up the difference he has seen in Heyward at the plate this season.

But the biggest effect the Gold Glove right fielder might have had on the game was the diving catch he made on Zack Cozart’s slicing flare toward the line on a hit-and-run in the third. He then jumped to his feet and threw to first to double-up Eugenio Suarez to end the inning.

The Cubs led by two at the time, and starter Jake Arrieta had labored through the first two innings.

‘‘That was a huge play,’’ said Arrieta, who allowed only a single in the rest of his six-inning start after Heyward’s catch.

Heyward said he saw the play developing as Suarez took off for second.

‘‘I knew I got a pretty good jump, but it just kept fading away from me,’’ he said. ‘‘I was like: ‘Come on, ball, just stop. Just stay here.’ I had to dive. But you just always expect the worst. That’s the fun part about playing the outfield.’’

Zobrist to return Sunday?

Maddon said second baseman Ben Zobrist, who has been sidelined for much of the last week because of a sore lower back, was ready to play Saturday. But Maddon sat him again as a precaution because of the threat of rain delays and cold temperatures.

‘‘There’s no sense pushing it right now,’’ said Maddon, who expects Zobrist to return Sunday.

Zobrist hasn’t started since Tuesday. His only appearance since was as a pinch hitter Wednesday.

La Stella heads to Iowa

The Cubs activated infielder Tommy La Stella from the bereavement list, then optioned him to Class AAA Iowa, as expected.

The roster decision was a choice between that move and waiving outfielder Matt Szczur, who’s out of options, to keep the extra reliever in an eight-man bullpen.

‘‘If you choose to keep Tommy and just set Matt free, that could come back to bite you in the butt relatively quick,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘We do have two other left-handed pinch hitters on the bench [Jon Jay, Miguel Montero], which also mattered.’’

La Stella, who went AWOL for three weeks last summer when he was optioned to the minors, was given a heads up a few days in advance of this move and reported on time.

He was on bereavement leave because of the death of his grandmother.

This and that

Arrieta has tripled in four consecutive seasons after his run-scoring shot to right in the fifth.

• Suarez’s homer against reliever Justin Grimm in the eighth snapped the bullpen’s streak of 14⅓ innings without being charged with a run.

Follow me on Twitter @GDubCub.

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

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